Published on February 15th, 2019 | by Carolyn Fortuna
February 15th, 2019 by Carolyn Fortuna
In a recent publication, Breitbart, that mouthpiece of right-wing conservatives, discussed a former Tesla executive being questioned over claims that Elon Musk lied to investors prior to the SolarCity acquisition. The cabal involves a former Tesla president of global sales and services, a gaggle of lawyers for pension and investment funds, a case that ranges back to 2016, and accusations that Tesla’s CEO used dastardly means to convince investors to back his $2.6 billion buyout of SolarCity. Ah, another Tesla conspiracy. Get in line.
When an online newspaper uses terms like “reportedly,” “believe,” “will be questioned,” “alleges,” and “refused to comment” as the foundation for its reporting, is it actually news? Or is it innuendo disguised as information?
Essentially, Breitbart described how last year a judge determined that Tesla investors had enough evidence to raise a “reasonable inference that Musk exercised his influence as a controlling stockholder” in relation to the SolarCity buyout. Investors also convinced the judge that conflicts “diminished the board’s resistance to Musk’s influence.”
The claims stem from pension funds holders who opposed the Tesla/SolarCity deal and who now believe that Musk wrongly inflated the value of SolarCity. Breitbart argues that the two recently hired independent Tesla directors came on the scene “following claims that the company’s board was tied too closely to Musk.” They also point to Gigafactory 2 operations in Buffalo, New York, where the majority of the solar operations take place. The plant has been under scrutiny of late due to allegations of inactivity and low employment numbers.
Breitbart did acknowledge that 85% of Tesla stockholders backed the SolarCity buyout decision.
Breitbart fails to make any logical link in its article between Jon McNeill, the former Tesla employee who’s being questioned by the attorneys in the case, and the SolarCity buyout. McNeill is now the the COO of the ride-sharing company Lyft, and he left Tesla in early 2017 at a time when Lyft had scooped up employees from Google and Uber. McNeill was welcomed into the Tesla family during an investors’ call in late 2015, jumping to the all-electric car company after serving as CEO of the business software company, Enservio, for 13 years. McNeill also co-founded Sterling Collision Centers, a nationwide auto repair company later acquired by Allstate Insurance. At one point, McNeill was awarded the “Most Admired CEO” by Boston Business Journal and named Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of The Year.
McNeill was noted in a Wired story as someone who had the ability to calm Musk, the perfectionist. “I think we can fix this,” McNeill told Musk during one of his “rage firings.” McNeill reminded Musk of the proverb: “No man comes up with a good idea when being chased by a tiger.”
Little exactly is known about what McNeill may have witnessed that would support the recent Breitbart Tesla conspiracy theory regarding the SolarCity buyout.
Indeed, Breitbart has so little to go on in the recent story that it repeated the who-what-when-where-and-why 4× to fill the 396 word count of the article.
Breitbart Sniffs Around, Hoping to Catch Tesla Napping — and Rewrites the Narrative into Another Tesla Conspiracy Theory!
Breitbart loves to hate Tesla. In the last week or two, it has gleaned accusatory articles from other periodicals and done a slash/steal/cut ‘n paste to meet its apparent quota of rip-apart-Tesla hysteria.
- “Analyst: Elon Musk’s ‘Reckless’ Comments About Tesla Autopilot Could Put Drivers at Risk”
- “Federal Study Said Tesla Autopilot Reduces Crashes by 40% – but Report Shows Increase of 60%”
- “WSJ: Tesla Failing to Service Its Customers’ Vehicles”
- “LA Times: Elon Musk’s Tesla Pricing Math Doesn’t Add Up”
- “Report: Former Employees Say Tesla Factory Production in Buffalo ‘Fabricated for Show’”
If you’re as old as I am, you probably remember when journalism involved independent investigation. It wasn’t a process of regurgitating what other journalists — especially news sources with a comparable (read: slanted) ideology — said and calling it news. When did the independent press go by the wayside? Well, the US lost approximately 1/3 of its newspaper reporters and editors between 1992 and 2009. From 1985 to 2012, public service reporting, explanatory journalism, and investigative reporting all decreased significantly as a result of declining newsrooms, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.
It’s really important to remind readers that Steve Bannon, who served as Executive Chairman of the publication before and after serving as Trump’s chief strategist, called Breitbart “the platform for the alt-right,” a euphemism for white nationalists and their sympathizers.
And Robert Mercer, who is Breitbart’s co-owner and a major benefactor, doesn’t just invest in Breitbart — he uses it to push his own views and interests, according to ThinkProgress. Mercer made his money as co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, or “RenTech,” a quantitative hedge fund that uses computer algorithms to make investment decisions. Despite Mercer’s role in financing white nationalist activity, many retirement funds have no plans to divest from the RenTech hedge fund.
During the past decade, Mercer, who is 70, has funded a multitude of political projects that helped pave the way for Trump’s rise to political power, according to The New Yorker. Painfully shy, Mercer has had surprising success in aligning the Republican Party, and, consequently, the US with his personal beliefs, and he is now uniquely positioned to exert influence over the Trump administration.
Last year, Elon Musk exclaimed that Tesla was under attack. Oil companies certainly have the rationale to attack Tesla (i.e., they’ll lose their liquid gold billions as electrification becomes the norm) and short sellers have the financial incentive (i.e., as Tesla has grown, many short sellers have felt the burn). Let’s continue to give Musk the benefit of the doubt when it comes to Tesla conspiracy theories. If he believes that Tesla is under attack from outside forces, as seems is the case with Breitbart, he’s being appropriately paranoid, given today’s business and political environment.
Tesla isn’t even the best target for sensationalist reporting. If a newspaper wanted to proclaim that a current public figure should be held accountable for her or his actions, then it need not look very far. Our own #fakepresident has had his hand in so many fiascos that the courts and scandal sheets could be kept busy for years to come.
Hmm. Why is it so prevalent to attack Tesla? And in whose interest is it to keep Trump in office, anyways?
Don’t fear, folks. “Breitbart News will continue to follow the lawsuit against Tesla over the SolarCity acquisition.”
Images in public domain, retrieved via Pixabay
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